A top traffic police official Monday termed the condition of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which remained closed for the seventh straight day, as “disastrous”. “The condition of the highway is disastrous,” inspector general of traffic police Alok Kumar told Kashmir
The situation along the highway is unpredictable because nobody knows when there will be landslides or shooting stones, particularly between Ramban and Ramsu, he said.
Kumar said frequent shooting stones and landslides can prove dangerous for travellers.
He said another massive landslide hit the road near Maroog on Monday afternoon.
“We were told by director National Highway Authority of India that it will take eight more hours to clear the highway,” Kumar said, adding that shooting stones are “order of the day along the road”.
The IGP said he, along with Jammu range inspector general of police and divisional commissioner Jammu carried out an aerial survey of the highway and also held a meeting with the road executing agencies.
He said the snow clearance operation has been completed from Bannihal to Qazigund town.
“The main problem is the Ramsoo-Ramban stretch which is dotted with landslides. Clearance operation is continuing on war-footing,” he said.
The highway was closed Wednesday after incessant rains and snow triggered landslides along the road.
At least 10 people were also killed in an avalanche and landslides that hit Jawahar tunnel and some other areas along the road, last week.
Due to continuous closure of the highway, supplies of essentials have run short in the landlocked Valley.
A traffic department official said more than 3,000 vehicles, mostly carrying essentials to Kashmir, are stranded at Udhampur and other places. Similarly, over 2000 trucks, including those loaded with fruit, and empty oil tankers, are stranded on this side of the Jawahar tunnel, including at Qazigund.
In absence of any official help, local residents are providing food and water to the stranded truckers and other passengers at Qazigund and other places.
The official said fresh prediction of bad weather is likely to bring more woes for the stranded passengers.
Fresh precipitation may result in more landslides hitting the road, he said.
Pertinently, the local Met department has said that a fresh western disturbance is likely to affect the state from Tuesday evening until Friday noon. It will move from northwest to southeast and again to the Pirpanjal range from Gulmarg to Bhaderwah which will witness moderate to heavy rain or snow, especially on February 13 and 14, the department said.
Following the closure of the highway, airfares have increased exponentially, while scores of Kashmir-bound stranded passengers in Jammu, or along the highway, have started running short of money and have demanded special air sorties to reach their destination.
Meanwhile, divisional commissioner Jammu SanjeevVerma, inspector general of police, Jammu zone, M K Sinha and IGP traffic, Alok Kumar conducted aerial survey of various snow affected areas of the Ramban district, an official spokesman said.
The officials visited a massive landslide spot near Maroge, Ramban, to oversee the clearance operation so that the highway is reopened for traffic at the earliest, the spokesman said.
The divisional commissioner directed the NHAI authorities to depute adequate men and machinery for opening of the highway from Nashri to Banihal, especially at Maroge, Anokhifall, Battery Chasma, Digdole and other vulnerable locations.
“He (divisional commissioner) directed the concerned road agencies to ensure smooth and safer passage of traffic by clearing the landslides besides ensuring proper maintenance of the highway at all crucial places,” the spokesman said.
The divisional commissioner also convened a meeting with the district officers to review progress on restoration works and discussed issues regarding restoration of essential services in the district.
Meanwhile, an official Monday evening said the eastern tube of Jawahar tunnel (north portal side), which was blocked by a snow avalanche, was made traffic-worthy.
“The snow and avalanche debris has been cleared,” he said.
A traffic official said vehicles stranded on road would be allowed to move first once the road reopens.
“Tomorrow (on Tuesday), traffic movement may be allowed from Jammu to Srinagar but a final decision will be taken in the morning only,” he said, advising the travelers to contact traffic control units in Jammu and Srinagar before leaving for their destinations.
Meanwhile, The continued closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway has inflicted losses worth crores of rupees on fruit growers across Kashmir. People associated with the fruit industry say more than 2000 fruit-laden trucks are stranded along the highway, which continues to remain closed for the past seven days.
The fruits including a top
“It is usually during this time of the year that Delicious apple is transported to other states from Kashmir. Once truckloads of fruit remain stranded on the highway, it obviously means a serious blow to the fruit industry,” said Fayaz Ahmad, president, fruit growers and dealers association, Sopore.
Several stranded drivers carrying fruits in their vehicles said their consignments are about to perish.
Irshad Ahmad, a truck driver who left Sopore with his fruit-laden truck on January 19, said he is stranded on the road for the past several weeks.
He said the fruit has perished and it will be a loss of no less than Rs seven lakh. “I am waiting to reach some safer destination. The fruit has decayed and now I am waiting to return home,” he said.
The apple industry is already passing through a rough patch due to hostile weather in Kashmir, according to fruit growers.
Many fruit growers say a huge number of apple trees have suffered damage due to the heavy snowfall. “The recent snowfall too has proved disastrous for the industry. Though there has been no complete review of the losses suffered by the fruit growers, the loss is massive and worth crores of rupees,” Fayaz said.